As college kids, we all understand the importance of sleep — and most of us spend much of our time doing it if we’re not studying or out late on the weekends. Although we get how important it is, do we really understand what’s happening to our bodies while we sleep? I’m here to tell you what’s up.
What’s happening while I sleep?
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, while we’re sleeping, our brains usually cycle through five stages, with the fifth being REM sleep. REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement and it is the deepest stage of sleep. Our breathing quickens and becomes more irregular, our heart rate increases, and our muscles can even temporarily paralyze. Although we are in the deepest state, our bodies are also more active. When awoken during REM, we can experience outer body feelings and bizarre dreams.
Why is REM sleep important?
Most scientists and psychologists believe that we spend about two hours of our sleep dreaming. Although we cannot be certain why we dream or what their meaning may be, Sigmund Freud, a highly influential figure in the world of psychology, believed that our subconscious desires and fears come out in our dreams. That might be why that cute guy at the bar you talked to for five minutes last weekend showed up in your dream last night, or why you feel anxious when you wake up after dreaming about an upcoming exam or interview.
REM sleep also stimulates the parts of the brain we need for learning. We all want to stay up binge watching Netflix, but you’ll be more present in class the next day if you get the proper amount of sleep. That being said…
How much sleep do I need?
As we age, our bodies become less dependent on sleep. However, young adults still need at least nine hours of sleep. Trust me — I don’t remember the last time I got that much, either. However, sleep deprivation can be very serious. If you miss a night or two of sleep, your body starts a “sleep debt” and will try to make up for that lost time in bed. Driving while sleep deprived has also proven to be more dangerous than driving under the influence. Woah.
What can I do to sleep better?
There are many melatonin rich foods we can eat that will help us sleep better, including bananas and peanut butter because of their slow-releasing sugars. You can also take melatonin or magnesium supplements before sleeping.
Why do I feel so drowsy when I wake up in the morning?
Your body’s clock needs a regular schedule in order to wake up each morning feeling refreshed. This is because your sleep cycles can vary as you sleep, and waking yourself up out of a deeper stage can be more difficult. Apps like Sleep Cycle aim to measure when you’re going through each stage and can wake you up at the best time for your body.
Although you knew you needed it, now you know more about the importance of sleep. Take a nap or go to bed already.